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Musical

Review: The Boy From Oz

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Review: The Boy From Oz

The Boy From Oz is an enjoyable retrospective of the life and songs of Peter Allen—complete with well-known hits that range from ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ through to ‘I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love’ and the crowd-pleasing ‘I Go To Rio.’ The Show is a 160-minute musical theatre romp through well-known easy-listening material that would be a challenge for any professional company, as Allen was clearly uniquely talented, and Hugh Jackman is not always going to be available to take on the role.

Allen was a trailblazer who was not only successful in his home country but also in America (aside from his Broadway flop, of course). The Australian singer/songwriter was a consummate performer, which means that the title role demands an actor who can sing and dance (and I mean dance, with tap-dancing and high-kicking on the agenda), and can also hold the audience during a number of direct monologues. I am sure that Shannon Foley (Peter Allen) will relax into the role, and get to enjoy the audience interactions, and portrayal of his relationship with Liza Minnelli (Natalie Lennox), a little more. ‘Easy listening’ is a deceptively difficult genre to master, and the opening numbers for both halves needed a little more vocal pizzazz and confidence. I have to admit to preferring Foley’s Jean Valjean to his Peter Allen—but was impressed by the ballads (and his vocal work in the ‘Only an Older Woman’ number with Wainwright), and must congratulate Foley on those impressive high-kicks.

Particularly memorable were the performances by Vanessa Wainwright (Judy Garland), Luke Devine (Greg Connell) and Aiden Huntly (Young Peter Allen). Wainwright’s Garland was a beautifully-observed, believable diva who absolutely ‘nailed’ her musical numbers. Huntley’s Young Peter was a charmingly enthusiastic pub-performer—portraying just the right amount of naivety, talent, and love for his Mum. And it’s just a pity that Devine’s role didn’t call for more solos, as his moment singing in the spotlight was poignant and moving.   

Other key roles were also well-cast—in particular: Jacqui Cluny’s ‘Mum (Marion Woolnough) was suitably nurturing and funny, Zoe Costello’s Valerie Anthony was an entertaining cameo, and Natalie Lennox shone in her Liza Minnelli ‘I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love.’ 

The Savoyards Creatives are a strong team. Many congratulations to Renee Allotta (Choreography) for some impressive choreography, and hats off to the hard-working dance ensemble (April Beak, Alanah Giles, Melissa James, Miranda James, Molly Brown, Izzy Smith, Natalie Cassaniti, Tatijana Wills, Kristan Ford, and Roh Whittaker). The high-energy television routine in the first half, and later Rockettes’ high-kicking number were superbly developed and executed.

The Boy From Oz also had great set design (congratulations to Charlotte Keen, Laurene Cooper-Fox, Zane C. Webber (and the crew involved with the development and construction of the scenery and set). I loved the press cuttings around the proscenium arch, and how the home, bar, set and dressing room areas were established around the stage. And of course the show had many of the marvellous costumes that we have come to anticipate from Savoyards Brisbane (costume design by Kim Heslewood & team). Artistic Director Miranda Selwood made excellent use of the whole stage, and (working with Musical Director Benjamin Tubb-Hearne, Assistant Musical Director Matthew Semple, and Assistant Director Julie Eisentrager) brought the best out of the whole cast—particularly during the ensemble pieces such as ‘Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on the Stage’ (ensemble: Shelley Quinn, Julianne Norris, Sheree Bryant, Kate Baxter, Anna Husband, Nicola Moriarty, Francesca Wright, Emma Windress, Joshua Thia, Alex Lamont, Nick Ferguson).

There were a few problems with sound levels on the opening night. The orchestra occasionally drowned out some of the leads, a few of the personal microphones seemed slow to ‘kick in’ at the start of some songs, and I wonder if there was a bit of a wireless black-spot in the family kitchen. The numbers opening both halves didn’t have quite the impact they needed (perhaps there were microphone problems for the lead ?). Small points that can be easily addressed.

Chookas to Savoyards Brisbane for the rest of the run. The opening night is behind you, so now it’s time to relax and have some fun with the show.

Verdict: A solid production, that reminds you of the story and success of a talented Boy from Oz.

Audience tip: 2 hours 40 minutes (including a 20-minute interval). All ages. 28 September-12 October 2019 (7:30pm performances on 28 September, and 5, 11, and 12 October. 1:30pm performances on 29 September, and 5, 6, 12 October).  Tickets may still be available at The Savoyards website $50 ($45 10+ Group, $47 Concession, $28 Junior). Arrive early, as there is plenty of parking and lots of space in the foyer for drinks before the show. All seats appear to provide an excellent view.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 28 September 2019 Opening Night (7:30pm).

‘I Go to Rio’ (Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography)

‘I Go to Rio’ (Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography)

Photograph from the Audience: Picture Credit Creative Futures Photography

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Review: Chicago

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Review: Chicago

Chicago is a tongue-in-cheek look at the manipulative power of the press, the workings of 1920s American courtrooms, and the desire to escape the mundane in order to achieve the dizzying heights of being a celebrity. The original play is based on a number of true stories, and the celebrity treatment of the accused by the press of the time. Dating back to 1975, the subsequent musical was a long-running Broadway success, and a major 2002 film—which probably explains why many people will know many of the songs and have a clear image of the vivacious young women at the centre of the piece.

The musical centres on the trial of Roxie Hart (Heidi Enchelmaier), interweaving her story with that of fellow murderess Velma Kelly (Joanna Nash). Velma is already in prison—attracting widespread press attention following the murder of her cheating husband and sister. But Velma disappears from the front pages when Roxie murders Fred (her lover, who had threatened to leave her). Both women employ Billy Flynn (Joshua Moore) to defend them. Flynn is an expensive and super-confident lawyer, who has worked out the importance of having a good story for the press as a route to gain his clients’ acquittal.

Presented as a ‘vaudeville show,’ the musical is introduced by a ringmaster (Tony Meggitt), with interjections from the musical director (Benjamin Tubb-Hearne) and even frequent cast requests for ‘my exit music.’ Sherryl-Lee Secomb (Director) set the scene, incorporating a smattering of circus-style silk performance even before the show began. And ensured this styling was maintained through the show, providing some fantastic opportunities for the ensemble.

The show has a number of major set pieces, where all 40+ members of the cast were on stage, getting everyone’s feet tapping. The opening All that Jazz may not have been quite as upbeat as we might have hoped. But there was some excellent ensemble work in this production: the circus-styling of Razzle Dazzle, and the superb Cell Block Tango (“He had it coming”), were particular highlights. Congratulations to the choreographic team, led by Desney Toia-Sinapati (Me and My Baby being one of many memorable routines)—and of course to the whole cast, but in particular to the dancers (Amy MacGregor, Izzy Smith, Jade Wright, Kaitlin Hague, Kristan Ford, Luke Marino, Shannon Metzeling, Simon Lyell, Stewart Matthews). Unfair of me to highlight one dancer, but Luke Marino is certainly one to watch for the future.

The Savoyards is an amateur, community-based theatre company with high standards, bringing major musical productions to the local stage. Audiences are fortunate that the team put together such an excellent variety of shows, and attract some great performers. The leads were well-cast, although I wondered if Kyle Fenwick (Miss Sunshine) was suffering with a cold on the day. Danika Saal (Mama Morton) certainly did justice to When You're Good to Mama, relishing the role of the manipulative Matron with the soft spot for the convicted Hunyak (Jessica Boersen). Moore was a good choice as Billy Flynn, the role suiting his vocal range and enabling him to demonstrate his acting, dancing and comedic skills. Equally Enchelmaier was up to the challenges of playing Roxie, particular when enjoying major set-pieces such as Roxie, Nowadays, and of course the almost showstopping fun when playing the ‘dummy’ to Moore’s ventriloquist (We Both Reached for the Gun). Nash has a strong voice, and she can certainly dance; her I Can't Do It Alone deserved better applause than it attracted on the day, and of course Nowadays was an understandable crowd-pleaser.

Amos Hart (Rod Jones) was the standout….an interesting feature of a role with a solo about his invisibility (Mr Cellophane). Great character acting and a very impressive pratfall (or was it just a well-worked recovery from a trip on the day?). Let’s hope that the Savoyards again have Guys and Dolls in their sights. It would be interesting to see Jones as Nathan Detroit, and I am sure the rest of the leads would love the chance to audition to join him.

The success of any show depends not only on the cast but also of the work of those behind the scenes. Chicago must be a gift to any talented and enthusiastic costume designer. The Savoyards team, led by Kim Heslewood, didn’t disappoint: short skirts, a suitably powerful outfit for ‘Mama,” great circus and ‘crowd’ outfits for the ensemble, and fabulous sequined flapper costumes for Enchelmaier and Nash’s final number.  

It was lovely to see the orchestra centre stage, but I wonder if this may have created some challenges for the sound team (David Sowdon & David Longton). There were a number of points where the sound, and also the lighting (Alan Nutley), detracted from the performances. I am sure the lighting and sound issues will be addressed for the rest of the run, but it was disappointing that these problems hadn’t been ironed out after the first show. Lighting and sound were an intermittent distraction during the matinee I saw. Lead actors were occasionally left in the dark—particularly noticeable on many occasions stage right, but also at the climax of Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag, when Enchelmaier’s face almost completely disappeared. The sound, particularly in the first half, was cranked up a little too high, leading to what a fellow audience member described as ‘disembodied’ character of many of the voices (noticeable for example when the Ringmaster opened the show). Some of the microphones continued to crack and pop into the second half, but at least the feedback problems of the first act were resolved during the interval.

However, once these issues are resolved, I am sure the audiences in the rest of this sell-out run will have a ball.

Verdict: Well-worth going if you can. Look out for the opportunity to buy 2019 Season Tickets (available November 2018).

Audience tip: Arrive early, as there is plenty of parking and lots of space in the foyer for drinks before the show. Seats in row I & J might be preferred (or H for those requiring mobility assistance), but all seats appear to provide an excellent view. 2 hours 35 minutes (including 20-minute interval), and note the advisory (adult language and themes). Chicago has only 8 performances and it appears that the rest of the shows are sold out (opened on 29 September and closes on 13th October). Tickets may still be available at The Savoyards website $50 ($45 10+ Group, $47 Concession, $28 Junior). Or why not keep an eye on the website and book ahead for the 2019 season. 2019 Season ticket sales open in November.

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives


The reviewer attended the Saturday 6th October 2018 matinee (1:30pm).

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Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

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Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

It is such a pleasure to go out for an evening of light-hearted entertainment that delivers on its promises: a funny, revue celebration of the trials and tribulations of monogamy. In a little under 2 hours (including a 20-minute interval) the audience are treated to a series of (mainly musical) vignettes and sketches which follow the process of dating, marriage, in-laws, new parenting, older parenting, breaking up, post-divorce match-making and geriatric hooking up.

Picture:  Hey There Single Gal/Guy ( full cast Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). Picture credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Hey There Single Gal/Guy (full cast Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). Picture credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Unsurprisingly, the play, by Joe DiPietro (Book and Lyrics) & Jimmy Roberts (Music)[1], was an off-Broadway triumph, racking up over 5,000 performances in an 18-year run. There are many witty twists along the way—from the dashed expectations of the parents (who had hoped that 2 years of dating would herald an engagement), through to an entertaining twist on speed-dating (who needs to date for 2 years anyway, when you can skip on to the breakup on the first evening). There are tears and laughter: laughter from the audience (I think there was a lot of recognition of personal experience along the way), and who can forget the conversion-to-chick-flick tears of the guy (Jack Treby) who assured his new date that she should choose the film?

The cast of 8 work hard and seem to have a lot of fun along the way (goodness knows how the Broadway cast of 4 managed to cover the program). The show begins and ends with some great close harmonies by the full cast (Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). But each of the performers has an opportunity to shine, and it is probably unfair of me to select only a few highlights. But of course I will! Single Man Drought was beautifully directed (Gabriella Flowers) and provided an opportunity for some wonderful female harmonies. Hey There Single Gal/Guy was simply fabulous—and almost a show-stopper. thanks to the comedic skills of Mom (Eisentrager). I Will Be Loved Tonight will stick in the mind not only for the great exchanges between Maringe and Vanek, but also every time someone suggests bringing wine to accompany lasagne, I’ll remember their dialogue… And then of course there was the Marriage Tango (again a ‘gift’ for Maringe and Eisentrager, who had almost as much fun performing the piece as we did watching it). 

Picture:  Baby Song ( full cast Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Baby Song (full cast Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The cast sang, danced (thanks to the work of Deaney Toia-Sinapati), and acted their way through a wide range of characters and pieces to make the 2-hour show pass in a moment, thanks to some wonderful characterisations and a great selection of costumes (Kristan Ford). 

Not every scene was set to music, with some entertaining sketches allowing Musical Director (Danika Saal) and Musicians (Katherine Gavranich, Ann Whitaker and Jesse Harris) a chance to catch their breath. The orchestra work hard in this show, and the production was well-served by their centre-stage contributions.

Congratulations to The Savoyards Committee for their ‘Name of Project (NOP)’ initiative. The opportunities for new technical creatives to gain that all-important experience are few and far between.  I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is the first of the Savoyards’ NOP projects, allowing technical creatives to gain experience under the guiding hand of experienced mentors. It is great to see established creatives—led in such style by Gabriella Flowers (Director)—provide such fantastic experiences for the talent of the future. There are over 50 individuals credited with bringing this production to the stage. Congratulations go to each and every one of them—and in particular to the 7 mentors who supported their proteges. Enjoy the laughter and the applause of your audience. You deserve it.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the preview performance, Friday 16 March, 2018 (7:30pm).

Venue:  The Star Theatre, Wynnum High School, Peel Street, Manly Qld (https://www.savoyards.com.au/i-love-you-youre-perfect-now-change )

Tickets (all plus transaction fees): General Admission $37, Concession $32, Group (10+, $30), Junior (High School, $25).

Running time: 105 minutes, plus 20-minute interval.

Parental Advice: This show contains adult themes and language.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Originally Produced in New York by James Hammerstein, Bernie Kukoff and Jonathan Pollard. Original Direction by Joel Bishoff. Originally produced by the American Stage Company (James N. Vagias, Executive Producer). "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" is presented by permission of ORiGiN™ Theatrical on behalf of R&H Theatricals.

 

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